Maschinenpistole 43 & Sturmgewehr 44 Assault Gun
The German Army was the final product of almost a century devoted continuously to a nation wide study of all aspects of the science of war. The German weapons were the best that its accomplished scientific and military minds could devise and which the country’s economy could produce.
One of the finest examples of success is the Sturmgewehr 44 - StG44 assault rifle. After the war the StG44 served as the model and inspiration for all assault gun designs including the Russian Kalashnikov AK-47. By the end of the war, over 400,000 StG44 variants of all types were produced.
The German Army determine that most firefights took place at short ranges, around 400 meters. This conclusion resulted from a detail analysis of engagements during the years of 1939 and 1940. The primary German weapon of the time, the bolt-action Kar98K rifle, was ill-suited for the mission. It was designed for longer-range precision fire between the ranges of 800 -1000 meters. On the other side, the existing sub-machine guns like the MP40 lacked the range or stopping power with the 9mm ammunition. The solution: first design compact ammunition, ideal for a new automatic weapon, with the proper balance between range and power. The cartridge designed was the 7.92x33 Kurtz cartridge, which provided an excellent balance between hitting power and control.
Next came the rifle design. Carbine submachine gun specifications were issued to the firms of Haenel and Walther in 1942. Limited numbers of trail weapons were produced and tested on the Eastern Front. The Maschinkarabiner 42 (H) or MKb42(H) came from Haenel while the Walther weapon designation was Maschinkarabiner 42 (W) or MKb42(W). Trials for both proved quite successful. Troops embraced these first ever assault guns. Yet Hitler decided that these development programs should be stopped. Haenel did not comply with the order and resorted to subterfuge to be able to continue development. The Haenel weapon was renamed to hide its true identity, now the carbine designation changed to a sub-machine gun, the Maschinenpistole 43 or sub-machine gun 43, or MP43. With further modification and improvement, came the first production version, the Maschinenpistole 44 or MP44. Limited numbers reached the troops. His generals raved about its capabilities and boldly demanded more. Hitler decided to support the weapon, giving it the new designation, the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44) or Storm Assault Rifle 44.
First deployed in 1944, it proved to be a revolutionary weapon. A StG44 equipped solider had a greatly improved tactical repertoire, in that he could effectively engage targets at long range across open terrain, or in close range urban fighting, as well as provide cover fire in all situations as a machine gun role. Most gun parts were constructed from steel stampings, but the weapon was very serviceable with reliable operation and accuracy.
German weapons innovated extended itself into the design of StG 44 accessories. One was the first night small-arms infra-red sight, called the Vampir. In the realm of the bizarre came the infamous 'Krummlauf.' This 'curved barrel' attachment was intended to allow the StG packing soldier to shoot around corners at angles between 30 to 45 degrees. Even a special mirrored sight provided an aiming point. The 'Krummlauf' never worked correctly.
The Sturmgewehr was, at first, distributed almost exclusivly to the German elite forces. Units like the Waffen SS formations Leibstandarte, SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich, 3rd Totenkopf, 5th "Wiking", the 12th "Hitler Jugend" and Grossdeutschland held priority in all matters including access to the new war potential winning weapons like the StG44. When production volumes improved around December 1944, the StG44 saw widespread distribution in all types of units in the German military including the newly formed Volksgrenadier divisions.